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WikiLeaks: The First World InfoWar

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Daddy, what did you do during the First World Infowar? As the question of whether WikiLeaks' Julian Assange is a hero or villain moves from front page headlines to talk shows and the blogosphere, another big story is emerging.

Unlike the quickly suppressed Twitter linked student revolt in Iran in 2009 following the disputed presidential election, the move by supporters to avenge attacks on Assange has gone viral. The rapid duplication of WikiLeaks content over the past weekend from one to more than 208 mirror websites represents a global counter-force that is now worldwide. Around the globe, it has become a call to arms for a far flung team of anonymous hackers.

Taking place in cyberspace, it exposes a whole new battlefield for the US government. A "clean-tech" war, it is taking place far beyond the sand and dust of Iraq and Afghanistan which already has immobilized billions of dollars worth of the military's engines, and electronics.

Yet this emerging Infowar is more than a multiplication of mirror websites. Operation Avenge Assange marks a power shift, an abrupt shift of power from those who hold power through secrecy, closed door diplomacy, or fear, toward those who favor transparency.

This shift to openness and transparency, declares Jeff Jarvis, author of Public Parts, and What Would Google Do?, is actually a shift from those who hold secrets to those who create openness. That is our emerging reality.

Even more real is the fact that what may be termed the world's first Infowar has now entered the realm of online gamers. With the line between government secrecy and public transparency beginning to blur, those whose lives are plugged into the Internet are starting to feel a surge of power.

This shift of power to openness and transparency is occurring right under their fingertips, on the keyboard, and on the screen. To them, power is clarity.

"The first serious Infowar is now engaged," warns cyberlibertarian John Perry Barlow, a founding member of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead. To the anonymous hackers and others who follow him on Twitter and in blogs, he reminds: "The field of Battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops."

And the troops are gathering. The worse it gets, the more empowered they seem. As a message on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed reminded: "Cut us down and the stronger we become."

Hour by hour, as authorities seek to disable Julian Assange's financial lifelines, as threats against his life stir the airwaves, an invisible cyber counter-force shows how quickly a globally connected network of computer savvy individuals can innovate when one of their members is threatened.

Interestingly, almost forgotten in this cyber game of hide and seek, is the content of the diplomatic cables.

However, to those who fear the release of more information, this time about the financial markets and Wall Street, 39-year-old Assange has threatened that he will unleash a "thermonuclear device" of completely unexpurgated government files if he is forced to appear before authorities.

Unlike Biblical David who felled Goliath with a slingshot and single stone, Julian Assange's weapon of choice is a 256-bit encryption key. He refers to this as his "insurance policy."

Shifts happen. What appears to be happening "overnight" has been more than 30-years in the making. Unknowingly, the computer industry has delivered on its promise of unlimited power to the individual.

Powering up, WikiLeaks computer-linked troops may be giving the world a look at the future of war.

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